and Dhugal returned through the Veil to rejoin Azim. “Very well,”
Morgan said with a nod, “we are at your disposal. What shall we do?”
“Come here on the Portal,” Azim said, “and lower your shields. I am not permitted to give you our destination.”
Morgan thought he knew where they were going. Seven years ago, he had first encountered the Camberian Council on the eve of a Dual Arcane between King Kelson and King Wencit of Torenth. Not only did he learn of the existence of the Council, but also found out that Bishop Denis Arilan was a member. Morgan wasn’t sure if Azim was aware of that incident, as it was well before he had joined the Council.
Morgan stepped on the Portal and effortlessly lowered his shields. Dhugal followed suit, though not quite as easily; he had made progress since learning of his Deryni heritage just four years previous, but still hesitated lowering his shields around strangers. Azim was not exactly a stranger, but Dhugal had not had as many dealings with him as Morgan.
Together, they closed their eyes and braced themselves as they sensed Azim warping the energies. They felt the floor drop out beneath them, a brief falling sensation, then a jolt.
The intricately carved doors in front of them as they opened their eyes confirmed their destination to Morgan. Wordlessly, Azim escorted them from the Portal and through the doors.
Not all the Council was present, only three members (four, counting Azim): Arilan, dressed in his traditional purple cassock, standing behind a chair and fingering his amethyst bishop’s ring nervously. The other two were seated. Morgan recognized the elder of the two as Barrett de Laney, a blind scholar who frequently visited the Rhemuth library, and who recently had become a tutor to Jehana, mother of King Kelson. He thought he knew the other man, dressed in scarlet scholar’s robes, but he wasn’t certain.
Arilan glanced up as the three entered. “Alaric, Dhugal, it’s good to see you. I want you to know, this wasn’t my idea.”
“Let’s get to the point, Denis.” the third man said. “Morgan, when you were here before, we touched on the fact that it appears you can Heal.”
“I believe some introductions are in order before discussion, friend Laran,” Azim interjected smoothly. “My lords, you are already acquainted with my colleague, Denis Arilan, and I believe you have met Barrett de Laney. The third member of the group is Laran ap Pardyce, a very talented scholar and physician.”
“Thank you, Azim,” Barrett said, turning his sightless face toward the man and nodding.
Laran nodded absently, then spoke again. “To reiterate, we briefly discussed your ability to Heal when you came here before Wencit’s Duel Arcane -- and now it appears that young MacArdry can Heal as well! We want to hear about your Healing experiences.”
Morgan wanted to walk out, but he wasn’t sure he would be able to operate the Council’s Portal. He suspected not; there was probably some spell limiting its control to members of the Camberian Council. Keeping his emotions in check, concerned for Dhugal’s safety, he related some of his Healing experiences: the gravely wounded Derry on the eve of Kelson’s coronation; himself when the traitorous Lord Ian struck him down with his dying motions; an unknown soldier who had fought against Nigel's forces; Duncan’s injuries suffered at the hands of the late, unlamented Loris and Gorony. After Morgan, Dhugal shared his few encounters: Kelson in the caves below Saint Kyriell’s; helping to Heal Matyas after the treachery of Teymuraz.
Laran listened carefully, lips pursed, as Morgan and Dhugal spoke. “Interesting,” he said, when they were finished, “but I must admit, I’d like to see a demonstration of these so-called Healing powers -- on Barrett.”
“I assure you, Laran,” Azim interjected, “there is nothing ‘so-called’ about their abilities; I was there when Matyas was gravely wounded, and saw the results of their labors.”
“I still can’t see how two half-breeds are in possession of powers lost since the Restoration,” Laran said petulantly.
Morgan could hold his temper no longer. “So it comes down to that again?” he asked, stepping in front of Dhugal to shield him from any possible retaliation. “The old ‘half-breed’ issue continues to blind the Council. Once again, I and my colleagues are in the no-win situation.”
“Alaric, please....” Arilan began, reaching towards Morgan.
Morgan brushed his arm away. “No, Denis, I will not be silent on this issue any longer!
“You call us ‘half-breeds’ and doubt that we can hold powers that you are missing. Yet, I assure you, sir, that there are humans out there who make no distinction between these so-called degrees of Deryniness. Loris and his ilk were all too willing to regard Duncan as full Deryni, even to the point of burning.
“All our lives, we’ve been neither fish nor fowl -- pursued and demonized by humans for our Deryni powers, yet denigrated and denied access to our heritage by the Council because of our human blood. Go talk to Derry, to Matyas -- Jesu, talk to Kelson! -- and see if our human blood has kept us from Healing!”
Barrett spoke. “My Lord Alaric,” he said softly, “I freely admit that many errors have been made in the past, and it will take time to rectify them. If you do not wish to show your gift at this time, I will understand.”
Morgan’s mind flashed back to Kelson’s wedding, and seeing Barrett there with Jehana -- Jehana, who had been one of his staunchest enemies, but who since had begun to accept her own Deryni heritage, with the help of this gentle scholar. He glanced back at Dhugal and sent a tight silent query -- ‘Shall we?’ -- to which Dhugal nodded in assent.
“Lord Barrett,” Morgan said, “we shall try, not for the Council, but for you and the regard the Dowager Queen of Gwynedd holds for you.” Morgan glanced pointedly and Laran as he spoke. Laran avoided his look. Arilan looked stunned, but Azim appeared proud of Morgan.
“How do you propose we approach this, sir?” Dhugal asked, as they stood next to the blind Deryni lord.
“Very carefully,” Morgan said softly, as he placed his hands on Barrett’s head and prepared to go into trance. He sensed Dhugal following suit effortlessly, and marvelled at the progress the young man had made in the past four years.
Together, they entered the trance state both of them had come to associate with Healing. For a brief time, nothing happened, then Morgan felt the familiar Presence he had come to consider the “Camber touch” -- but somehow, it was different this time. Instead of working through him, it was working on him, comforting, soothing, preparing....
Morgan suddenly knew that nothing could be done. The damage was too old; the pathways to Healing the scholar’s sight had atrophied. Disappointed, he sent that indication to Dhugal and slowly came out of trance. Dhugal followed shortly thereafter.
“Well?” Laran asked.
Morgan shook his head. “There was so much damage, and so long ago, that it couldn’t be Healed,” he said wearily. He placed a hand on Barrett’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Lord Barrett.”
Barrett smiled. “I had feared that was the case,” he replied, “and had warned Laran of that. I am content. If we knew more about Healing....”
Dhugal spoke. “How -- how did Healing get lost in the first place?” he asked.
Laran pulled out a chair, indicated that Dhugal should sit. Gone was his previous bluster. “No one exactly knows, son,” he said gently as Dhugal sat next to him. Morgan took a seat beside Dhugal, curious yet cautious. “Healers were never numerous, and many found religious vocations and chose celibacy, though that was discouraged. In the years after King Cinhil Haldane, many Healers in Gwynedd and their families were lost in the persecutions. Those that survived reportedly were slaves to the human lords until they, too, outlived their usefulness.
“It’s unknown when Healers disappeared from the rest of the Eleven Kingdoms. There are random reports of Healers in Torenth as late as the mid-900s, but they’re a little sketchy, especially after 948. There have been rumors of secret orders of Healers somewhere in the East, but no one’s been able to confirm it.” Azim smiled mysteriously, but no one in the room noticed. “At any rate, revealing yourself as a Healer, unless you were a religious fanatic like Warin de Grey, was a very risky proposition.”
“What about the ‘half-breed’ issue?” Morgan asked quietly.
Laran looked embarrassed. Barrett responded. “Believe it or not, Lord Alaric, it was actually for purposes of protection. As Deryni went into hiding, many of them married into human families. Their children were not only not of full-Deryni blood, but also had no access to proper training. As those children grew, they would be vulnerable to fully trained Deryni who could potentially kill them arcanely and seize their property. Obviously, there is much still to be learned about the nature of the Deryni bloodlines.”
“I believe the late Tiercel de Claron once said that perhaps one is either Deryni or not, that the idea of ‘half-breeds’ does not exist,” Laran said thoughtfully. “Perhaps the key is not the degree of the bloodline, but the degree of training.” He looked at Morgan and Dhugal. “Perhaps the two of you can help the Council explore this.”
“To close the rifts that have divided Deryni for 200 years would be quite a work of Healing,” Arilan said quietly, coming to stand behind Laran.
The physician rose, looking slightly sheepish. “I must admit,” he said softly to Morgan and Dhugal, “that much of my animosity towards the two of you, and towards Duncan, stems from jealousy. Here I am, a skilled physician, with an unsurpassed knowledge of drugs and herbs -- yet too many times, I have had to witness patients die because I could not Heal them.”
“Healers face the same fate, my lord,” Morgan replied, remembering how Kelson’s first wife, Sidana of Meara, had bled to death despite his and Duncan’s efforts to save her. “We may have tools unavailable to the physician, but we do not have absolute power over life and death.”
Laran nodded. “I think we have much to learn from one another, friend Alaric.” He held out his hand. “If the Great Healer can work his magic, perhaps this lesser healer can become whole.”
Slowly, Morgan rose and took Laran’s hand. “It will take some time, friend Laran. The injuries run deep, and there is much scarring with which to deal.”
“The Great Healer has tools unbeknownst to both of you,” Azim said, approaching the pair. Arilan, smiling now, moved to stand behind Dhugal’s chair. “But if you are patient, His Works shall be great indeed.”
“Amen, Selah, so be it!” the other five responded in unison, smiling.
~ Finis ~